Crossword Competitions: Cancelled!

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Originally, today’s post was going to be about the Eighth Annual Finger Lakes Crossword Competition happening this weekend.

I was going to wish the participants good luck and talk about crossword tournament protocol and advice.

But that’s all been rendered moot, as the Eighth Annual Finger Lakes Crossword Competition has been cancelled due to concerns surrounding gatherings of people during the ongoing Coronavirus situation.

And unfortunately, it’s not the only upcoming puzzly event that has been scuppered by preventative health measures.

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Alas, the 43rd edition of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament has also been cancelled for health-related reasons.

Although Will Shortz is in discussion with the hotel and event organizers regarding potentially moving the tournament to later in the year, for now, ACPT won’t be happening.

I’m disappointed, of course, but I’m not at all surprised. With schools and libraries closing their doors for the time being, not to mention sporting events potentially being held in empty arenas, all sorts of gatherings are being cancelled or rethought in order to keep folks safe.

We here at PuzzleNation hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy, and taking steps to stay that way.

Be well, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers. (And in the meantime, now you’ve got more time to practice your puzzly skills for the tournament’s talent show.)


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Puzzle Tournaments Loom Near!

[Solvers gather for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.]

Tomorrow is the 21st annual Westport Library Annual Puzzle Contest, and I consider Westport the unofficial start of the year’s crossword-y festivities.

Sure, the obvious start is the weekend of March 20-22, when the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament descends upon Stamford, CT, and puzzlers from all over test their puzzly mettle against some devious and delightful crosswords.

Then, after the big event in March, it’s a few months’ wait until summer, when there’s at least one proper tournament every month. We’ve got the Indie 500 in June, BosWords at the end of July, Lollapuzzoola on a Saturday in August, and Bryant Park in September.

But that ignores all the smaller tournaments and events in between. Libraries and rec centers all over the country host puzzly events that get less press than the famous ones.

For instance, did you know that on March 14th, you can attend the Eighth Annual Finger Lakes Crossword Competition?

I bet you didn’t.

So, in case you’re not traveling to one of the more well-known tournaments, keep your eyes peeled for smaller, but no less enjoyable, puzzle events happening throughout the year.

And good luck to all those headed to Westport for some Will Shortz-fueled cruciverbal adventures! Happy puzzling!

Are you attending any puzzle events this year, big or small? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you!


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A Festive Bit of Domino Fun!

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[Image courtesy of Those Crazy Schuberts.]

Ah, the day after Christmas. The wreckage of wrapping paper has been swept up. Toys are being enjoyed. Some are relaxing, while others are back to work before the new year begins.

It can be a hectic time or a quiet time, depending on your circumstances. But in either case, it doesn’t mean the festivities have to end just yet.

At the very least, you can take a few minutes to enjoy a touch of puzzly percussion.

As is often the case when it comes to domino delights, this video comes to us courtesy of kinetic artist, domino master, and friend of the blog Hevesh5, and it’s a genuine treat.

Enjoy:

What separates Lily’s work from other (equally impressive) domino displays is that she is so immensely clever at incorporating the theme into the domino chain. Bundling up the toys (and making a toy train do the work), dropping the stockings from the mantle… it’s all so slyly Seussian that you can’t help but love it.

Hevesh5 has once again outdone herself with a clever chain reaction that’s as entertaining to watch backwards as it is forwards.


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A Musical Holiday Puzzle Picture!

Christmas is less than a week away, but the puzzly celebrations have already begun.

Perhaps you’ve come across a maze on the back of an advent calendar, or a festive brain teaser posted by our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, or even a bundle of holiday-themed crosswords for your favorite puzzle app.

But if not, a delightful little puzzly challenge has started making the rounds on social media in the last week.

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There are 20 Christmas songs hidden throughout this image.

(And if you want to see a larger version of the image, click here!)

Hayes Garden World, a garden design and construction company in the UK, are responsible for this musically-minded brain teaser where famous and popular holiday songs are depicted in clever, punny ways.

Can you name all 20 songs?

We bet you can! Let us know how you do in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you!


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December Deal of the Day!

Hello fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!

Have you been checking out our Deals of the Day? If not, then you are missing out, my friends!

Every single day through the end of 2019, we’ll be offering a special deal for our puzzle apps!

We’re talking sales, discounts, special promotions, the works! And the best part? It’s something exciting and unique every single day!

And today is no different. Check out this awesome deal!

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It’s the December Deluxe Bundle, loaded with terrific seasonal puzzles and clues guaranteed to keep your puzzly wits engaged!

With 105 puzzles to solve, full of wintry fun and holiday cheer, plus the top-notch construction PuzzleNation is known for, how can you go wrong?

And don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled across all our social media (Facebook and Twitter especially!) for new announcements each and every day for the rest of the year!


Oh, and while you’re here, be sure to check out our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide! It’s been updated with links to full reviews for some of the latest puzzly products included, as well as a few last-minute additions and surprises!

Happy shopping and happy solving!


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

PuzzleNation Product Review: Bananagrams Duel

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[Note: I received a free copy of these games in exchange for a fair, unbiased review. Due diligence, full disclosure, and all that. /end disclaimer]

When it comes to word-forming tile games, the folks at Bananagrams are the masters. Their fruit-inspired packaging is synonymous with that particular brand of puzzling, giving Scrabble a run for its money in terms of letter-tile games. And they have an uncanny knack for putting new spins on classic puzzle-game tropes, breathing new life into the genre.

For instance, Bananagrams Duel replaces the iconic Bananagrams tiles with letter dice. Does this really make a difference in the game play? Let’s find out together.

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Bananagrams Duel is a two-player word/grid-forming game, consisting of 24 six-sided letter dice, a handful of banana cards, and a handy carrying case. When it comes to travel-friendly puzzle games, it doesn’t get much simpler than this.

Instead of pulling from a shared pool of letter tiles, each player gets 12 of the 24 letter cubes. The goal is the same as a traditional Bananagrams game: to create a criss-crossing grid of recognizable words. You’re allowed to shift and flip any of your dice to other letters as needed, and the grid can change at any time. (Unlike, say, Scrabble, you’re not locked into a word if you’ve already spelled it. Anagramming is always an option.)

The first player to use all 12 letter dice and call out “Bananas!” wins the round and is awarded one banana card for the victory. First player to 10 banana cards wins.

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But those little banana cards do more than help you keep score. On the other side of each card is a theme. In one of the variant rule sets detailed in the little instructional guide, your completed grid must now contain at least one word that fits the given theme.

That little tweak can make a traditional Bananagrams game much more challenging. After all, if you’ve ever played the regular version of the game, you know how words can just evaporate from your vocabulary during play, only to suddenly return once your opponent has completed a grid. Now imagine that same feeling, but with a theme of sports or six-letter words attached to it.

In one of our test games, we actually made this harder on ourselves by trying to make EVERY word in the grid fit the theme.

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As you can see here, we were allowed to choose our own theme, and we chose “Space/Astronomy.” I was devilishly close to completing my grid, but lacked the “L” I needed to spell Pluto. Meanwhile, my opponent went with a two-word grid that gelled nicely.

I don’t recommend trying it this way — unless you’re looking for a serious challenge — because the usual themed rules are tough enough.

Although an occasional bad pool of letter cubes can leave you without a letter — like, for instance, an L you really need — for the most part, it didn’t feel like the letter cubes were more restrictive or limiting than a traditional pool of Bananagrams letter tiles. All the dice shifting made for a different, yet familiar solving experience.

Plus it’s super-easy to come up with your own variant rules to enrich repeated games. The instructions list 5 alternate rule sets, and I would gladly recommend one that went well with us: having your opponent roll one of your dice for you and making you use it as the starting letter for a grid word.

Bananagrams Duel manages to boil down the Bananagrams formula to its most essential and playable form yet. And with a much faster clean-up (or pack-up and stash-away, if you’re on the road/in the airport), it’s more travel-friendly than ever before. They’re not lying when they call it a small space word race.


Bananagrams Duel is available from Bananagrams and participating local and online retailers, and it’s featured in this year’s Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide!

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You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!